Cindy Casper is a seasoned consumer marketing researcher and the Principal of boutique consultancy, Casper Insights. Cindy discusses how her career in marketing research began with ad effectiveness testing and explains the role that secondary, syndicated data can play. We discuss Cindy’s innovative approach to customer segmentation and the creation of authentic personas for collegiate clients. Cindy also shares her go-to tool for results analysis and data visualization.
Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Cindy Casper: I wanted to find a way to make segment profiles more realistic, to be more useful. And by using personality as the basis, I was able to create segment profiles that felt more authentic or human.
Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye, a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tenant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us today.
As we’ve discussed previously on this podcast, COVID-19 forced many folks to work from home, accelerated the growth of e-commerce, and boosted the popularity of direct-to-consumer and at-home fitness brands like Peloton. Today, it’s inflation that’s influencing how many consumers make decisions about which products and services to buy. For marketers, understanding the drivers behind consumers’ evolving purchasing behaviors and their sentiments toward brand advertising is important. So to help us understand how consumer research can contribute actionable insights for marketing teams, our guest this week is Cindy Casper, the Founder and Principal of Casper Insights, a boutique consumer research consultancy. Cindy has over 20 years of experience in consumer research, which includes assessing TV ad effectiveness for advertising agencies, and developing custom research studies for Proctor and Gamble brands. Cindy’s career also includes managing marketing research and analytics for Jo-Ann stores, directing promotional planning and advertising effectiveness for OfficeMax, leading the insights team at American Greetings, and holding the position of Senior Director of Insights and Research at Sam’s Club. A move to Arizona saw Cindy become the Managing Director of Knowledge and Insights at Arizona State University, a position she held for over six years. Today, Cindy is joining us from her home in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Cindy, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!
Cindy Casper: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
Adrian Tennant: So Cindy, when did you first consider consumer research as a career?
Cindy Casper: Well, it was during college exploration time, really, And having spent time in higher education, I know that people frequently change majors and trying to figure out what they wanna do with their life. And I started out as an electrical engineer because I loved math. And then I came over more your way and studied journalism because I also really enjoyed the creativity and art and advertising. And I thought all of that was fascinating. And I was fortunate that my advisor in college encouraged me to take some business classes and I discovered marketing research and it really was a connection between math and statistics and creativity and advertising. And so then I knew what I wanted to do and I was about ready to graduate, so I didn’t wanna change my major, but I just went on and got an MBA then, went straight through and learned a lot more about business and marketing research that way.
Adrian Tennant: Well, over the course of your career, you’ve worked with many brands and organizations that are household names. What types of consumer research have been the most common across all the brands you’ve worked with, would you say?
Cindy Casper: I was trying to find a connective thread because there’s been a wide variety of things I’ve worked on, and I think that perceptions about brand is really the most common denominator there. People wanna understand how people think about their brand and whether that brand is a product or a company or a service, there are ways that people think and feel about their brand that influences their decisions about how to engage. And so I’d say that would be what links those things together.
Adrian Tennant: Do you have a personal preference for quantitative or qualitative research methods, and if so, why?
Cindy Casper: Well, I think the listener could probably predict, just based on my first couple of answers, that I am definitely more quantitative, um, because I love math and statistics and I appreciate qualitative, but I think most people are either wired for deductive logic or inductive logic, and I’m definitely more of a deduction, take all of the data, try to reduce it down and find the patterns and it’s like puzzle solving, but with the creative twist because there are multiple solutions, but it’s finding that truth that’s hiding in the patterns of data that I just find to be so much fun.
Adrian Tennant: In addition to managing primary research studies for brands, you’ve also worked with syndicated research providers. Could you explain what they are and how you’ve used them to supplement in-house consumer insights functions?
Cindy Casper: Sure. So syndicated is typically when a third party obtains data from other people and aggregates it to sell it off to other people so that they can use it. And the most common is aggregators of product sales from retailers. And so different retailers could agree to make their data available, and then product manufacturers can purchase it from aggregators like Nielsen or IRI or NPD. And it’s really helpful because it’s really the gold standard, I’d say, in behavioral data, in sales information, and that can then supplement attitudinal data about products so it can tell you what’s happening in sales of your product across different types of outlets, and you can drill down, not only by the channel type or the retailer, but category product details by time, by geography, units, or dollars. And so with all of those different combinations of lenses, you can develop hypotheses about why your sales are trending a certain way and then, you know, typically in my world, then you’re gonna need to go use something like primary research to explore those hypotheses. Because the behavioral data itself can’t tell you why
Adrian Tennant: So Cindy, I can understand how the use of syndicated data works for CPG brands that are in most supermarkets, or any kind of measured channel. What happens when you want to know more about unmeasured channels?
Cindy Casper: Well, different vendors are getting into that space so that they can become measured. in fact, I was working on a plant-based seafood product and found that there is a data source called SPINS, which aggregates for those types of products,that are not often captured by the big syndicators, covering more vegan, alternative foods, foods that don’t have a UPC code on them, like organic fruits and vegetables often, are not captured. So, and then, you know, online channels, there’s more and more data providers and so, I often tell my students that wherever there is increasing demand, there’s gonna be a supply that pops up. So if people wanna know it, someone’s going to find a way to offer it.
Adrian Tennant: Cindy, in many of the positions you’ve held, you’ve been responsible for customer segmentation. For people new to consumer research, could you explain what it is and how segmentation can help marketers?
Cindy Casper: Sure. I love segmentation and I don’t know why. I just think differences are fascinating. and I guess it’s that contrast, instead of just knowing something in the absolute, you’re able to compare different groups of people, which is really what segmentation is, is just finding ways of grouping individuals, or I guess organizations, whoever your customer is. In order to treat different people differently is the basic idea so that you can be more relevant and not treat everyone the same. And so it’s a middle ground between one size fits all – everybody gets the same product, the same message, the same approach – and treating everyone as unique individuals, which you can do if you only have a handful of customers like me. But that’s hard to scale. As your audience or your customer base grows, you need to start treating people as groups of people just so that you can manage it. And so you can segment based on demographics as the original, traditional way, because that’s how media would be bought would be, I wanna have, women, 25 to 54 is my target, and so that’s my primary audience. And so you might use it just to decide who is the one group that I wanna focus on the most , or you could use it to say, I have multiple groups, multiple segments, and here’s the ones that I want to focus on and how I wanna treat each of them differently, whether that be based on demographic things or behavioral things. You know, these are my frequent loyal buyers, these are my infrequent, less loyal or less profitable customers. Or it could be, the use of attitudes or psychographics to understand what are the drivers or the reasons that they buy or the barriers for them buying so that I can message them with something that is going to resonate with, what they value or appreciate.
Adrian Tennant: Correct me if I’m wrong, modern segmentation, as we know it, really began with General Motors.
Cindy Casper: I find that completely believable because I grew up in a GM household. my father was an engineer for General Motors, and my sister and I both worked at General Motors in college. Turned out that everyone there had a parent who worked in General Motors. I think it was more than a coincidence, but, we would often hear, around the family dining table about how the different brands appealed to different income groups and how they were each positioned. I think some of that has deteriorated over time, but I think in the heyday that was really how they thought about the positioning..
Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most important issues brand managers or their agency partners need to consider when planning and designing segmentation studies?
Cindy Casper: So I often hear from people not just with segmentation, but frequently with segmentation that, I need a segmentation and whenever anyone says they need a method, I’m always skeptical of cuz no one needs a method, no one needs a focus group. They need to make a decision . And so my first question is always, how are you going to use it? What is this going to help you do differently that you can’t do today? And then that often leads to an understanding of what capabilities do they actually have, because depending upon what types of data or technologies they have, what they were originally thinking of might be, you know, a very interesting intellectual exercise, but they won’t be able to actually action it. because if they don’t have the ability to treat different people differently, say with a CRM system that can, push different things out to different people or, a creative staff that can create multiple versions,if they don’t have enough resources to create more than one approach to something and they don’t want to limit their communication to one audience. So this happens a lot in higher ed. they want to communicate with all of their alumni or all of their students or prospective students. They don’t want to limit that audience. And so that’s what we often get into conversations about is let’s figure out how you’re going to use this to make different decisions or create different solutions. And if they need to be able to make a bridge, for example, from something you learn in a survey to something that is known from everyone in the database, then we need to think ahead about how are you gonna build that bridge, Because you’re not gonna be able to get your entire customer base to take a survey. So we’re gonna need to figure out a way to predict what we learn to something that can be actionable for everyone. So just some thinking that needs to go into it before they pull the trigger.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.
Seth Segura: I’m Seth Segura, VP and Creative Director at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as creative professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. For every engagement, we commit to really understanding our clients’ prospects and customers. Through our own primary research, we capture valuable data about people’s attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. These insights inform our strategy and guide our creative briefs. Clients see them brought to life in inspiring, imaginative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns. If you’d like to put Bigeye’s audience-focused creative communications to work for your brand, please contact us. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.
Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for October is Marketing Metrics: Leverage Analytics and Data to Optimize Marketing Strategies by Christina Inge. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Marketing Metrics, go to KoganPage.com – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.
Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Cindy Casper, the Founder and Principal of Casper Insights. We’re discussing the role that consumer research can play in marketing and advertising. At Bigeye, we typically undertake segmentation studies to inform the creation of customer personas, fictional identities that capture the demographics and characteristics of addressable groups of customers and prospects. Cindy, you’ve developed a new methodology for collegiate clients to create personality-based segments called Authentic Personas. Could you tell us more about that?
Cindy Casper: Sure. So authentic personas were inspired by something I noticed when I was doing segmentation in higher ed. It seemed that no matter how I segmented people, whether it be prospective students, students, alumni, and I was doing that based on their attitudes, their profiles almost always showed skews by major of study. So certain majors were more concentrated in certain segments than others, and I thought there must be something personality-based underneath there that’s driving that, that’s driving both their attitudes about the brand or the topic and what they’re choosing to major in. And so if you just think about all the stereotypes and the jokes about people in different occupations. You know, my husband’s an attorney, so I hear a lot of those about lawyers, and you know, that’s true about engineers, accountants, probably sales people, you know, any occupation has stereotypes around it, and jokes, and that they’re funny because there’s some truth that what people study and do for a living reflects something about their personality in a predictable way. And I was also troubled, of course, by the use of something called fictional in the world of fact-based decision-making and fiction in fact. And, but I saw that, fictional personas, Were useful to people, especially in user experience because they were very humanistic. And the creative people, the designers, writers, wanted to be able to picture a real human being and that told me then, Well, my segment descriptions don’t feel like real humans, even though they’re rooted in fact, and I have segment profiles, they’re not doing the job of feeling real and I think the more clearly you can picture a person, the more useful it is. But I wanted it to also describe a real person and more than one real person, because if you’re only designing for one person, you might be missing the mark with the other millions of people that need to be able to use the same website or product or whatever. So I wanted to find a way to make segment profiles more realistic, to be more useful. And by using personality as the basis for segmenting, I was able to create segment profiles that felt more authentic or human. And it turned out that, the obvious application would be for higher ed in talking to people with different majors, but because different majors correlate with different occupations, it can be useful for anyone who’s targeting people who have jobs, which are most people who have money to spend, have jobs or at least used to have jobs, and are now retired. So if you can get third party occupational data that’s pretty cheap and easy to append to any customer list, you then have a way to infer something about their personality, and then of course you could message according to what they value and prioritize.
Adrian Tennant: How have you used Authentic Personas?
Cindy Casper: Sure. So, I’ve always been fascinated by personality segmentations, and so the one that I use to actually collect data to validate this authentic persona idea was the Myers-Briggs approach, the M B T I, that takes into account intuitive versus sensing, thinking versus feeling, and individual versus group, which is the, perceiving, judging dimension. And it turned out that the intuitive sensing part didn’t really fall out, but the thinking versus feeling and the individual versus group definitely fell out. And so then you just end up with a nice little two by two or a four quadrant typology of, you know, you have thinkers who are more individual focused. And it turns out that those are people pursuing legal, public administration, psychology, or biology studies or occupations. And then you have the individual feelers, which are more your arts, English, communicators. And then group thinkers are more of your math and scientists. And interestingly, history falls in there. And then feelers with group focus are really more the social sciences, education, health, but also business. And so that group becomes large because so many people, study business. So it, it ends up with just a simple four different types of people in the world and ways that you might wanna communicate with them.
Adrian Tennant: Cindy, you now run your own consulting business. What prompted you to start Casper Insights?
Cindy Casper: You know, I’d love to say that it was, really, strategic intention, but honestly I just really wanted to find a way to keep working from home after the pandemic. I love being able to be in my house and, just love the lifestyle benefits that come from that. And I was fortunate that people just kept asking me to help them on a freelance basis while I was trying to figure out how I was going to find a remote gig. And I’ve been doing this for two years now. just picking up different contracts. I teach marketing research. I help, universities with some of the proprietary techniques I developed at ASU, but all kinds of different clients from market research firms need staff augmentation, ad agencies need research support, different brands may not have research in house or they need extra help. So it’s really just been a happy accident that, I’m hoping I can just continue doing and I needed, an LLC to be able to do the billing. So that’s how it came to be..
Adrian Tennant: What kinds of projects do you typically undertake for clients?
Cindy Casper: It’s really so diverse. You know, given the different types of clients and situations that I mentioned, but I suppose what they must all see value in the things that I have experience and expertise in, which is using data to better understand why people do what they do so they can make smarter, more data-driven marketing decisions..
Adrian Tennant: In what kinds of ways does being a solopreneur differ from working in an enterprise insights department? Are there things you miss about working in house?
Cindy Casper: So I solve pretty much the same types of puzzles or challenges. I suppose I am more hands-on, which I kind of appreciate. when I got to have situations with larger teams, I often felt all I was doing was going from meeting to meeting and assigning problems to solution providers, whether they be on my team or outside vendors. And so I missed some of that hands-on work. So I was having a hard time thinking of anything that I missed because I really just love what I do so much and my new lifestyle that comes with it. But then, while I was pondering this, preparing for the interview, my modem broke the other day and Casper Insights was shut down, and so I really miss tech support!
Adrian Tennant: You also teach research methods for Research Rockstar, which offers real time and recorded instructor-led classes online. Cindy, how are you seeing personal technologies impacting the practice of consumer research, both for researchers and study respondents?
Cindy Casper: So the world is changing so quickly now. The world of education is changing. I saw it just in my six years and my two years being away from higher education that technology, especially with the pandemic and having to figure out social distancing and education technology was the solution to being able to continue classes and a lot of new models for education are coming out. I was just reading about, Google providing a lot of education solutions in lieu of degreed credentials. And that is allowing people to have more just in time learning than going away to study for four plus years and learning everything you need to know to get you through your career. People need to continuously learn, and that is a marketplace that Research Rockstar serves as well. And then data collection technologies are constantly changing so that you need to constantly be retooling. You know, even just in the two years that I’ve been freelancing, I’ve needed to adopt new technologies, with data collection or data analysis. And so the days of doing everything one way, that you learn at the beginning of your career are gone. And so, you know, technology I think is really the reason behind all of those changes. And so the opportunity though, even though it means we have to keep learning more, it also means that we can rely more and more on technology to do the things that are tedious or time-consuming and free up the human contribution to be the creative thinking about hypothesis generation or applying techniques in a new way. and I think it’s not as tedious as it used to be. You know, having to go in and say code verbatims by hand is tedious, right? I mean, there’s just no other word for it, but in order to extract meaning someone had to do it. And so now with text analytics becoming smarter and smarter, you know, AI and machine learning can really give a great assist to that and just allow you to derive benefit out of it without having to invest the grueling labor, that would go into it. You know, same thing we used to have to key punch all of the surveys that would come back, you know, these poor people were sitting there in front of a keypad and typing it all in, you know, and then, we were able to scan it and then we were able to, you know, just collect it electronically from the beginning. And technology I think just allows us to be able to get more into what only human brains can do, which is the creative aspect.
Adrian Tennant: Do you have one or two favorite research tools that you just couldn’t live without?
Cindy Casper: Yeah, so those are tools really that do exactly what I was talking about. They take the tedious part out of it and allow you to think about the data instead of spending your time trying to get it into the buckets you want it to be and get it properly structured. And so, SPSS, used to be my primary tool and I still use it quite a bit for analytics, but it never was great at data visualization. And so I guess about a year ago now, I picked up DisplayR and that was my holiday project when I did not have as much to work on. I taught myself how to use that tool, and it’s great not only for data visualization, but for categorizing open ends with its machine learning. And the really slick thing that it does is you can get a partial data file as soon as you go into field,you know, so the day that you launch, you can grab the data file and it has everything structured. You can start creating your final report with partial data just to get everything tidied up and looking the way that you want it. And then it’s just like a magic trick. You bring in the final data file, you click a couple of buttons and your final report is completely populated, and you then saved, probably a week turnaround on being able to deliver the final report and people are just blown away it’s a great magic trick.
Adrian Tennant: Cindy, if IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about your research consultancy, Casper Insights, or the courses you teach for Research Rockstar, where can they find you?
Cindy Casper: So I have different hats. So if you are interested in my instructor hat, I can be found at Research Rockstar. I teach secondary research, quantitative data analysis, and data fluency, or I can be reached for consulting engagements at Cindy@CasperInsights.com.
Adrian Tennant: And we’ll be sure to include links to those in the transcript accompanying this episode. Cindy, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Cindy Casper: Thank you, Adrian.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Cindy Casper, the Founder and Principal of Casper Insights. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com. Just select ‘Podcast’ from the menu. And if you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.